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The Caravan

The Caravan October 2020

The Caravan is India’s first narrative journalism magazine. Stories are reported in a style that uses elements usually reserved for fiction—plot, characters, scenes and setting—to bring the subject to life. Like The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Granta, the context of a Caravan story is something more substantial. In India, this niche—one for the intellectually curious, the aesthetically inclined and the upwardly mobile, has remained vacant. That is, until The Caravan.

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Delhi Press Patra Prakashan Pte LTD
12 Issues

in this issue

7 min
possessed by greed

“This process will never come to an end,” Lakhyamati Daimary told me. “For as long as you make sure that the villagers keep believing in dainadaini”—the Bodo term for witches—“you don’t need any other way to fool them to get your work done.” In 2014, Lakhyamati, a cook at a primary school in Jangalgaon, a village in Assam’s Udalguri district, was accused of practising witchcraft. “My brother-in-law said that my daughter’s friend had been possessed by Aai Goxani”—a goddess associated with smallpox, also called Sheetala—“and that she had claimed I was a witch, who would wreak havoc in the entire village,” she said. “How does a 16-year-old girl claim such things and the villagers believe her? You tell me.” Lakhyamati did not take the accusation seriously at first, she added, “but then…

7 min
a hard place

The village of Haripipliya is set a little apart from the highway between Neemuch and Ratlam, which traces the eastern edge of Madhya Pradesh. It is difficult to distinguish it from adjacent villages along the road. Past the colourful wall of a school lies a settlement of the Bachhada, identified as a Scheduled Caste in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The village’s other castes derogatorily call the settlement a “dera.” There, in January, I met a 26-year-old resident who made her living as a sex worker. About a year ago, after visiting a health camp at the settlement, she discovered she was HIV-positive. She has been on antiretroviral medication, distributed free of cost by the government, ever since. When we spoke, she vowed not to let her 14-year-old daughter enter the “practice.” By…

6 min
agents of chaos

LETTER FROM THE UNITED STATES At about 1 am on 20 July—the fifty-fourth consecutive day of protests against police brutality in Portland, Oregon—a flash grenade exploded about four feet to my left, shooting out blinding light and a burst of sparks, illuminating the vast cloud of tear gas near the Mark O Hatfield Federal Courthouse. A journalist in front of me stood behind a large plexiglass shield with a camera affixed to it. I hid behind him, peaking out in an attempt to film the federal agents unleashing this barrage on the few dozen protesters and press. As the onslaught appeared to slow down, another tear-gas canister came in our direction. I stepped too far away from the shield in front of me, and an expletive passed my lips as a rubber…

6 min
match made

LETTER FROM SRI LANKA On 30 December 2019, a young woman from Sri Lanka’s Northern Province killed herself. While her motivations are impossible to guess, many Tamil websites noted she had recently married and a few speculated that excessive pressure for dowry may have played a role. The end of an anonymous poem which circulated on social media shortly after her death translates as, “If mothers who arrange marriages for sons/ Want to keep their children under their influence/ Why do they send them to wedding halls?/ It is the ruinous dowry system/ That has ruined this beautiful face.” Women across Sri Lanka have always had strong cultural incentives to marry. In Tamil homes, it is not surprising to hear the proverb “aanillaatha pennukku vaazhvillai”—a woman without a husband has no life.…

13 min
chinks in the armour

In April last year, as India was in the midst of parliamentary elections that saw Narendra Modi return to power with a bigger majority, the former vice-chief of the army staff Lieutenant General Sarath Chand formally joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. Since many top military officers have joined the ruling party immediately after retirement, another one joining it within a year of hanging up his uniform should not have come as a surprise. But Chand had made news in February 2018, a few months prior to his retirement, when he told the parliamentary standing committee on defence that most of the equipment with the Indian Army was in the vintage category. “Typically, any modern Armed Forces should have ... one-third of its equipment in the vintage category, one-third in the current…

10 min
condemned without trial

As India has climbed to the second spot in overall numbers of persons infected by COVID-19 across the world, the healthcare situation is deteriorating rapidly, especially in prisons. On 23 March, the Supreme Court ordered that state governments constitute “high-powered committees” to devise a criteria for granting interim bail or parole to undertrials and convicted inmates, respectively, to decongest prisons. Despite these measures, the governments and courts appear to be unable to control the crisis. Prisons across India have shown high rates of infection, with those in Maharashtra being worst hit—with 2,061 inmates and 421 jail staff infected as of 23 September, and an increase of about thirty positive cases daily. In Andhra Pradesh, 928 prison inmates and 167 staff have tested positive across jails. Most states have not made this…